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The Braves will have some choices to make this winter

Sep 3, 2009, 8:50 AM EDT

Atlanta is still right in the thick of the wild card race, but even so, the lure of the hot stove is undeniable given their relative embarrassment of starting pitching riches. As MLB.com’s Mark Bowman notes, other teams are thinking about it too:

The Rockies and D-backs both sent scouts to watch Tim Hudson make his
return last night.  Like Hudson, these clubs are wondering whether the
Braves will bring the veteran right-hander back to Atlanta next year.  

Even
as recently as the All-Star break, it appeared the Braves weren’t going
to be willing to bring both Hudson and Javier Vazquez back next year.  

But while there’s still a chance that one of them will be gone
before the start of the 2010 season, there’s also a growing sense that 
both could return to provide Atlanta with a rotation that would be
deeper than any of the great ones it possessed during the 1990s.

Assuming they exercise their option on Hudson, Atlanta will have six good starters lined up for next year: Derek Lowe, Hudson, Vazquez, Kenshin
Kawakami, Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson.  Vazquez is perhaps Atlanta’s best pitcher this year, but (a) he could bring the most in a trade; and (b) he has had trouble putting together solid back-to-back seasons.  In other words, his value may be peaking, and he might be the best bet for helping the Braves grab a much-needed corner bat.

As a Braves fan I’d like to see them keep all six. You have to expect a starting pitcher to go down at some point in the season, and it would be awful nice to have a backup, especially in a year when the Braves will have a good shot at the division.  Jason Heyward could probably play in Atlanta next year, and in light of the Adam Dunn contract this past winter, there’s no reason to think that the Braves couldn’t find a good first baseman or corner outfielder on the relative cheap without parting with starting pitching.

The most depressing possibility — but a distinct one given the Braves’ conservative corporate ownership — would be if they simply declined Hudson’s option and decided to go with the five other guys in order to save money while failing to either ensure or leverage their rotation depth.

Obviously, how Tim Hudson does in his final few starts this year may go a long way in determining what’s going to happen, but here’s hoping for a little imagination on the part of the Atlanta brain trust.

  1. themarksmith - Sep 3, 2009 at 10:21 AM

    Here’s another question: What has the better chance of happening — Vazquez at least getting close to his 2009 or Kawakami staying healthy and getting near what Vazquez would do anyway? Note that Vazquez has been consistently worth 5 WAR the past 4 seasons, and Kawakami might get to 2 this season. Of course, then you have to add in the disparities between what the two would bring in a trade.
    I just don’t know what Vazquez could really bring back. Can he get a legit, young hitter that plays the outfield or first and then some? Kawakami won’t bring that back, but what could he be worth?
    What I would like to see is this. The Braves decline the option but still work out a contract with Hudson. Of course, this means Hudson has to have some humility and understanding here. Maybe bring him back for $7 million (with the $1 million buyout of his option, that makes his contract roughly worth Kawakami’s). Now, they still have 6 pitchers but have saved about $4 million. Then, you look at trading Vazquez and Kawakami, but I don’t trade Vazquez unless I get something really, really good back for him (like a 3, 4, or 5 hitter).
    And possibly, I move Kawakami to the closer/set-up role (where he’s really expensive, but this is a sunk cost people) because the OPS against him in inning one is .669, his splits aren’t too different (righties for some reason are hitting him harder but the BA and OBP are very similar), and his stuff would play up.
    I just can’t trade Vazquez over Kawakami, but depending on the deal, I could change my mind. And I’d like to bring Hudson back more than I want Kawakami back.

  2. CG Hudson - Sep 3, 2009 at 12:18 PM

    Assuming Hudson makes it all the way back, I would love for Wren to effectively admit to his one mistake from the last offseason and see the Braves move their true #5 starter –Derek Lowe– just to get out from under the salary if nothing else.

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